The Purpose of a Winch and the Specs That Matter

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can find is the winch. It has a wide array of uses, for instance – in a workshop it can be used as a hoist to lift large and heavy objects, where as a vehicle accessory it can be mounted on the vehicle and used to pull or move heavy objects or another vehicle that’s stuck in a bind.

Winches are electrically powered, typically by a 240V AC circuit or a 12V car battery. You can buy winch online, in home improvement stores, tool stores, department stores or from recreational vehicle dealers. There’s a wide selection of winches, meaning there are a couple of choices you have to make when you buy winch, including the type of motor, the pull ratings, the line length, the line speed and the hoist capacity.


Type of Motor

There are two basic types of winch motors – permanent magnet and series wound. Both types have characteristics which you should be aware of. If you’re going to use the winch very frequently, then you’ll need a series wound motor, as it works consistently for heavy-duty applications in all weather conditions and environments. Permanent magnet motors are better for light-duty applications and are the less expensive option. In extreme weather conditions, permanent magnet motors won’t perform up to their ratings as they have a motor that produces less power in subzero weather.

Pull Ratings

The pull rating of the winch is of paramount importance. It basically indicates the weight capacity the winch has with the first line of cable including the tensile strength of the cable. As the cable line winds on each and every other layer, the pulling capabilities are lowered. Depending on a few factors, the pull rating is reduced 10-15% on each layer. As a general rule of thumb, for safety reasons, your winch should have at least 1.5x the capacity of the weight of the object you want lifted or pulled. For instance, if you’re pulling a vehicle that weights 3.000 kg, the capacity of the winch should be 4.500kg.

Line Length

Although not as important as the pull rating, the line length of the winch matters. The longer the line is, the greater opportunity for it to kink, tangle, jamb and snarl. For most applications, about 30 metres of cable is enough. You can always carry an extra extension cable with eyelets or hooks if you need it, and that’s generally a better option.

Hoist Capacity

The hoist capacity of the winch refers to its lifting ability and is typically expressed in kilograms. The hoist capacity is influenced by the use of a chain instead of the steel cable used on conventional winches.